Wednesday, March 23, 2016

This is what Neerja made me think of

Yesterday, I watched Neerja, a movie starring Sonam Kapoor, featuring the life of Neerja Bhanot. “Neerja, the vivacious and brave senior flight purser of Pan Am, who was felled by the hijacker’s bullets during the Pan Am holdup at Karachi airport on September 5, 1986, barely 25 hours before her 23rd birthday.”


It’s not your ideal weekend movie, where you want to munch on caramel popcorn and swap a slew of comments with your movie partner. It’s not a movie to saunter in with gleeful excitement and come out feeling light and fresh. It’s not the film version of a chick lit.

‘Neerja’ is hard core reality, the story of that day, when the light went out of the lives of a family, who doted on their youngest daughter, aptly nicknamed ‘Lado’. The movie is raw and dark and poignant, like the incident portrayed. And the story of this young woman, who like a true soldier, put service before self, is inspiring and heart breaking in equal measure.

The part that dug its tentacles deep into my heart, was when her family back home hear of the hijacking and clutch to a splinter of hope. Hope that she will return safe and sound, hope that she will enjoy wearing the yellow outfit that her mother had bought for her birthday, hope that this girl who was an answer to their prayers would again be shielded in an armor of their prayers. 

These kinds of nights are the longest for mothers, for all those mothers across the world whose children are caught between death and a hard place. We’re not sure what the first hours of daylight will bring: a reason to celebrate life or a reason to mourn the twisted turns of fate. And through all of this we clutch on the stray seams of hope, wondering if we’ll ever be able to cope if the latter happens.

Neerja Bhanot

When I came back home, I googled Neerja Bhanot and recognized her face from the print advertisements of the 1980's in magazines that she had modeled for. It’s difficult to believe that this gorgeous girl with luminous eyes and a sunny smile had her life cut shot by hijackers. It’s always difficult to accept such wanton waste of life. The life of this beautiful, brave girl; the lives of those strapping young men in uniform who take the bullet for their country; the lives of all those who do not get to grow old.

In an ideal world, we’d all grow old, wouldn’t we? We’d all get to worry about wrinkles and grey hair. We’d all get to wear our dreams on our sleeves and celebrate the twinkling milestones that decorate our youth. We’d all get to find our soulmates and see our children grow up. We’d even get to play with our grandchildren and embark on our second careers and globe trotting plans.

But in a not-your-ideal-world, under the harsh spotlight of reality, all we have is now and a bright, shiny chance wrapped in the gift of each day, to start afresh and spin happiness from what’s at hand. And it’s this, this offer of contentment and joy amidst the daily and mundane, that we so often overlook.

In a haze of ambition and animosity, judgments and jealousy, the daily and the deadlines, we forget that today is a gift not meant to be squandered.

That we’re here on this earth for as long as we’re meant to be and not a minute more.

That what we can really nourish ourselves with is love and joy, and not power and wealth that we so often prefer over the former.

Like Neerja used to say (in the movie and I’m guessing in her life too), “Zindagi lambi nahin, badi honi chahiye (a good is measured by how you live it and not by its length).

What are you doing today to lead a ‘badi’ life ? 

Carry on this conversation at our Facebook Page.


#neerja #neerjabhanot


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